Actress Nafessa Williams Had To Learn The Power Of Pressing Pause To Win At Life

"Having financial stability is nice but by no means does it mean you are successful."

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

The only Black female superheroes that I can name off of the top of my head are my mother and "Thunder" from CW's Black Lightning. If you're not familiar with Black Lightning, I don't know what you are doing with your free time because it is one of the single best shows I've started watching. Nafessa Williams, alongside Cress Williams and China Anne McClain, effortlessly portrays a 21st century Black woman as she ebbs and flows through relationships, mental health and family drama - all while being a superhuman. Adding to that, she has broken ground playing the first African-American lesbian superhero on television. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Nafessa.

The 30-year-old actress has starred in the recent Deon Taylor feature Black & Blue alongside Naomie Harris, Frank Grillo and Tyrese Gibson for Screen Gems, had a season-long arc on the CBS series Code Black, and recurred on the hit Showtime series Twin Peaks.

For this installment of "Finding Balance", xoNecole had the chance to discuss with actress Nafessa Williams about meditation, traveling with her friends, and exercising as part of her daily lifestyle.

At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life? 

I remember it was right before I booked Black Lightning, I was auditioning every day, sometimes two to three times a day and I was drained mentally and physically. I was all about my work and busy trying to make it. I wasn't really enjoying life though, and I hadn't gone on a trip in about seven years, didn't have a self-care regimen, and was all work. A friend of mine advised me to press the pause button and live a little so I could give over to my craft and, more importantly, so I wouldn't drive myself crazy. So, it was at that moment I started to live more and take care of myself.

"I remember it was right before I booked Black Lightning, I was auditioning every day, sometimes two to three times a day and I was drained mentally and physically. I was all about my work and busy trying to make it. I wasn't really enjoying life though, and I hadn't gone on a trip in about seven years, didn't have a self-care regimen, and was all work. A friend of mine advised me to press the pause button and live a little so I could give over to my craft and, more importantly, so I wouldn't drive myself crazy."

Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

What is a typical day in your life? If no day is quite the same, give me a rundown of a typical work week and what that might consist of. 

A typical day in my life consists of prayer, meditation, [and a] morning workout. If I'm filming, I head to set; if not, I'm knocking out a to-do list. My favorite things to eat for breakfast are Beyond sausage and avocado toast, oatmeal and fruit, but if I'm pressed for time I'll have a banana and a green juice. I typically meditate for about 20 minutes everyday. I love the guided meditations with Deepak Chopra and Oprah on the Chopra Center Meditation website.

How do you wind down at night? 

I love to wind down at night with a shower, candles, and some relaxing music. My favorites to listen to are Lauryn Hill, Sade, Jill Scott, and H.E.R.. I lowkey go to bed watching Martin every night as if I don't already know every episode word for word.

When you have a busy week, what’s the most hectic part of it?

A busy week for me is when I'm filming every day that week. It's kinda tough being on set all day and night and needing to run errands because by the time I'm off work everything is closed; that can be hectic for me. But, I try to organize my weekend to handle the things I couldn't during the week. Oh, and trying to maintain my workouts when I'm filming can be tough when I have early call times.

Do you practice any types of self-care? What does that look like for you? 

Yes, mediation, workouts and therapy are a part of my self-care routine. I also treat myself to massages pretty often and quality time with myself.

"Mediation, workouts and therapy are a part of my self-care routine. I also treat myself to massages pretty often and quality time with myself."

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care? 

I would tell women, "You are what matters the most and if you aren't balanced, happy, centered, you can't give your best self to anything or anyone else." Self-love and our happiness should be at the top of the list. Make self-care a priority!

How do you find balance with:


I talk to my close friends just about every day. When I'm filming the show, I don't really get to kick it until the weekends though. I love to travel with my friends. I'm a true Sagittarius who loves adventure. My favorite [memory] with my friends is my 30th bday trip to the Bahamas with seven of my girlfriends. We partied, jumped off boats, swam in a cage and watched sharks being fed. Literally my most memorable trip so far.

Love/Relationships? Dating?

Work has been the priority for me over the last six years, but I am learning to find the balance when it comes to dating. I do want to have a family soon, so I'm starting to mentally prepare myself for the sacrifices that I'll need to make.


Exercising is a part of my lifestyle. I try to workout at least five days a week. The workout schedule varies depending on my shooting schedule. So I work out with my trainer Justin Shaw who created a dope 15-minute ab workout. It's intense as hell but knowing it's only 15 minutes is the incentive. I also switch it up and do some of my workouts on my own which typically last for about an hour. I like to do full body workouts. Legs, arms, back and abs.

"Exercising is a part of my lifestyle. I try to workout at least five days a week."

What about health? Do you cook or find yourself eating out?

I've been a pescatarian for the last eight years and it works for me. I've actually been in the kitchen lately, trying new recipes, cooking for my friends, enjoying my own food at home. Every now and then, I order out but not as much as I used to.

Do you ever detox?

I've detoxed before but it's not something that I do regularly. I've done a juice cleansing detox where I juiced for a couple of days. I loved the idea of the cleanse but I lost weight which is why I don't do it often. I love my weight and at the moment I'm just interested in toning.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?

My spirituality is very important to me. Prayer and meditation help me get through moments of uncertainty. Journaling helps as well.

"My spirituality is very important to me. Prayer and meditation help me get through moments of uncertainty."

Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Girlboss Rally NYC 2018

What do you do when you have a creative block on a project or feel like you have to clear your head before going into character?

When I feel blocked creatively or need to clear my head, I do a couple breathing exercises or go on a run. This tends to help me get centered.

Honestly, what does success and happiness mean to you? 

Being aware of and walking in your purpose is what I call success. I've learned tangible things don't equate to success, the intangible is what I'm after. For me, happiness and success is being fulfilled Spiritually, Physically, Psychologically and Mentally. Everything else will fall in alignment. I'll be honest, having financial stability is nice but by no means does it mean you are successful.

For more of Nafessa, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image via Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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